On Oct. 29, local immigrant rights activists protested the use of the county jail to enforce federal immigration (ICE) policies, which may be unconstitutional. Among those attending the rally were farmworkers from Caruthers who have been subject to mass CHP car impoundments.

CHP Targets Farmworkers for Car Impounds

By Pam Whalen

On Oct. 29, local immigrant rights activists protested the use of the county jail to enforce federal immigration (ICE) policies, which may be unconstitutional. Among those attending the rally were farmworkers from Caruthers who have been subject to mass CHP car impoundments.

In what has become a regular event in the Caruthers area, every year at the peak of the harvest the California Highway Patrol cruisers start showing up in the early morning when farmworkers are arriving to pick grapes or other crops and the cruisers are back at quitting time. The workers in the small unincorporated area have been subject to this intense scrutiny by law enforcement for years.

The Latino drivers of the vehicles are stopped for no credible reason and asked for their driver’s license. If they cannot produce one, their cars are towed. This results in a fine of $500 and about $1,200 in fees to pay for the 30 days that the car is impounded. Many people cannot afford to reclaim their cars or the amount exceeds the value of the car.

Residents of Caruthers and civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Friends Service Committee are concerned that this practice is discriminatory and a violation of the rights of these low-income farmworker families.

They are contacting local and state officials to remedy this situation. For more information, contact Myrna Martinez Nateras at the Pan Valley Institute at 559-222-7678 or Pam Whalen at the ACLU at 559-994-9390.

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Pam Whalen is a longtime labor and community activist and a member of the editorial board of the Community Alliance. Contact her at pamwhalen@comcast.net.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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